Monty Python in your data centre?

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He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!

Remember that from Monty Python’s classic film, Life of Brian?  Poor young Brian suffered under the yoke of misunderstanding and having unreasonable expectations placed on his shoulders.  Fast forward two millenia and welcome to “Life of DCIM”, the story of an acronym hatched with the best intentions and now smothered with confusion and missed expectations.  Whilst various analysts have spent the last few years hyping the DCIM market, the reality has been somewhat different with slower than expected adoption rates and now some commentators are taking a more measured stance. I explored this further in recent conversations with data centre managers and discussions on LinkedIn and discovered some common threads.  These are some of the comments and thoughts I gathered from those encounters:

  • more of a platform than a product
  • most products cannot do everything and most people cannot afford to buy everything up front particularly when it takes such a long time to implement
  • once understood and accepted, DCIM will become invaluable……..but
  • never lived up to what they told us it would do so we had to go back to manual record keeping
  • current DCIM products are complex and expensive with insufficient thought given to the user – the data centre manager
  • the Holy Grail is an intelligent dashboard which shows exception conditions only and through which one can get at all the information associated with a particular piece of kit, from manuals to maintenance records
  • reporting tools should have enough analytics such that staff can be more proactive than reactive
  • DCIM tools need to be modular

Then there is the old DCIM chestnut of: is it monitoring, is it asset management, is it everything?  Whilst the market waits for the perfect product to come along, the consensus seems to be  that “In the beginning, there was monitoring” and this is best place for data centre managers to start. Confusion about what DCIM is, combined with high prices from many vendors, has led to slow adoption rates; slower in the UK and Europe and RoW compared to the USA, perhaps.  Few if any vendors offer a complete, homogenous solution despite the marketing and advertising claims.  When the complex and expensive suites are bought they often require a lot of training in how to use them; the problem is that when the trained staff move on 6 months later, the use of the suite declines because others don’t have the knowhow and so another pricey piece of shelfware is born! It is a mistake to make things too complex to begin with.  Start with something definable and bounded which can deliver demonstrable, deliverable benefits quickly.  This usually means automated metering and monitoring matched with information flows which are matched to the levels of detail suited to your particular business.  Such an approach can provide critical intelligence about your infrastructure and identify opportunities for optimization, particularly in power and cooling which are the big drivers of data centre operating costs, and deliver rapid RoI. So, enjoy the comic genius of Monty Python without running the risk of letting the comedians run your data centre. Consider instead implementing automated monitoring as the first, most cost-effective step and remember to “Always look on the bright side of life!

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